County residents comment on snowplow policy plan

 By Kay Braddock

If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. That appeared to be the message rural residents shared with county officials during a Monday evening meeting addressing a proposed snow removal policy change that would require county residents to pay for any future lane-plowing service.
County road crews would continue to maintain snow removal services on all 64 county-named roads under the proposed change, but would discontinue the service of plowing private lanes free of charge. 
An estimated 146-miles of private lanes exist within the county. Currently snow removal service on private lanes is provided by the county on a per request basis.
Under the proposed change, residents who want snowplowing service on private lanes would be charged $50 for the first 30 minutes of service or $95 an hour.
When asked at the near conclusion of the meeting if the county should continue to plow private lanes at request, free of charge, a show of hands revealed that a clear majority of the about 20 people in attendance wanted to keep the service as is.
“It almost seems like if this program was working before, maybe we could just keep doing it the way we’ve been doing it,” north side rancher John Roos said early on.
But according to Board of County Commission Chairman Todd Devlin, questions about the county’s practice of plowing private lanes arose when one constituent asked why his neighbor’s private lane was being plowed, while his was not. 
“‘Wait a minute. This isn’t right,’” Devlin recalled the landowner saying.
Commissioners have ‘hashed around’ this issue that has existed for years, Devlin said. “Some people want their lane roads plowed; some people don’t. Some people don’t think it’s fair that lane roads are plowed for one taxpayer and not (another).”
As the demand increases, will the county be able to continue the service? That was one question posed by county officials during the hour-and-half long meeting. County road supervisor Mark Trask said the requests for private lane-plowing is increasing.
Landowners questioned whether their tax dollars weren’t already subsidizing the service.
“It seems like everybody pays quite a little bit of taxes and I guess they kind of have a hard time figuring why maybe once or twice or whatever each winter it’s needed, that (county road crews) wouldn’t just swing in to plow a guy open?” Frank O’Neill asked.
Devlin asked whether $90 was too much to ask for the service. 
“Well, we’re already paying taxes for it,” O’Neill responded. 
“Where do we draw the line?” Devlin asked, pointing to the strain any increase of the service would have to the county and to any inconsistency existing within the service.
“I don’t think anybody would mind paying that $95 if the county budget was running real low or short, but if you’ve got the money, then do it,” north side rancher Jim Reilly said. 
Devlin confirmed that the county’s road budget is in good shape.
Addressing another point, Terry Schools bus driver Pam Lassle brought up concerns that school bus routes should be the first priority for snow removal, as the policy states.
“It hasn’t been that way and I wish it would be,” Lassle said, noting she got stuck several times last winter in the Fallon Flat area. Of the two bus routes offered by Terry Schools, Lassle’s route is the only route that runs along county roads. 
Commissioners will review the proposed policy change again, addressing the feedback received from the meeting, Devlin said.
A copy of the Prairie County Snow Removal Policy can be obtained by stopping at the courthouse or  by calling the Clerk and Recorder’s office at 635-5575.

Published Oct. 19, 2011

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